Sunday, December 07, 2008

kentucky must pull itself up

below is an excerpt from an article in lexington's herald-leader, written by tom eblen.  he offers some solutions to our many problems.  as we think about the welfare of this city, these bits certainly should contribute to our understanding, prayers and efforts:

"So what do we do? Hunker down and wait for better times? Or do we use this crisis as an opportunity to make tough choices and take bold action?

It seems nothing focuses thinking like a crisis, and I was intrigued by some of the ideas I heard Thursday. Although these ideas would require a lot of political will, they wouldn’t cost a lot of money. In fact, many of them would save money in the long run, while making life in Kentucky much better. Among the ideas:

■ Follow the example of Ohio and other states and pass tough laws to rein in businesses such as payday lenders, rent-to-own merchants and check-cashers that prey on Kentucky’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens.

■ Enact laws and tax policies that promote the creation and growth of “micro-enterprises” — small businesses that allow families to support themselves and local economies.

■ Follow the lead of 34 other states and create a state earned-income tax credit for poor Kentuckians, similar to the federal tax credit in effect since the 1960s.

“What we know at the federal level is that it’s the most effective anti-poverty strategy out there to raise low-income folks to middle class and keep them there,” said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. “It is a very minimal cost to the state. … Ninety percent of those refunds are spent in the communities where those people work and live.”

■ Raise the age for compulsory school attendance from 16 to 18. Kentucky has one of the nation’s highest percentages of people age 16-18 who are neither in school nor working. “If you’re 16 years old and not in school and not working, you’re lost,” Brooks said.

■ Put fewer non-violent criminals in prison, especially young adult offenders. Brooks noted that it costs $4,000 a year to educate a teenager in Kentucky, and $60,000 a year to keep one in prison.

■ Follow the example of Lexington and other cities and enact a statewide ban against smoking in public places. It would send a bold message throughout Kentucky — and around the world. More than that, it would make Kentuckians healthier and save a fortune in future medical costs, said Dr. Melissa Walton-Shirley, a cardiologist from Glasgow.

■ Give Kentucky high school graduates a passport along with a diploma, encouraging them to travel and learn more about the world, said Kris Kimel, president of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corp.

And there were many more ideas that legislators should consider when they return to Frankfort in January, regardless of the economic outlook.

“There isn’t one answer,” Kimel said. “There are many, many answers. It requires a commitment to relentless innovation and relentless experimentation,” because we never know which ideas and strategies will work.

There’s never a better time to act than now."

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